Nov 8, 2007
It's tough to argue against bringing [adult swim] animated sensation Aqua Teen Hunger Force into the gaming realm. The wide-ranging absurdity of the short-form cartoon about a trio of talking food products opens the license up to any number of playable concepts. But which one(s)? We couldn't come up with anything that seemed to definitively match the license, but the real question is this: did Midway?
No. Well, maybe.
The golfing/kart racing/combat hybrid at work in Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am isn't a terrible one, at least conceptually. But in execution, the game comes off as a devastatingly poor collision of unrefined and clearly incomplete game ideas, with license integration representing the only aspect of the experience that doesn't seem completely phoned-in.
Though much of the game takes place on golf courses, it's not a golf sim in any sense of the term. With only eight total holes in the entire game (and about four hours of total gameplay), the links serve only as a setting for the bizarre concoction, which finds Master Shake and Frylock attacking waves of familiar foes and boss characters (such as Carl and the Mooninites) in a mad dash to the next shot location. The game's devotion to streamlined, dull iterations of the merged elements starts from the opening drive, as the rough three-click swinging system cribbed from Hot Shots Golf (one click starts, two other clicks assign power and accuracy) offers no great way to view where your shot is headed. This is extra troublesome because any balls that land out of bounds will simply explode and force another shot attempt.
Nothing about the three racing stages (against the Frat Aliens) would seem out of place in an unremarkable, decade-old kart racer, as the only power-ups scattered around the bland golf courses are rockets and speed boosts. And the combat: repetitive and routine don't even begin to describe the hack-and-slash experience. It certainly doesn’t help that Zombie Ninja Pro-Am ranks among the ugliest games to ever see release on the PlayStation 2, with environmental texture work apparently carried over from 1996 and an abhorrent frame rate that is especially choppy during the race sequences.
Where Zombie Ninja Pro-Am succeeds, and rather admirably, is in its presentation of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force license. From the sharply animated, fully voiced cut-scenes to the bonus video content (including "Robots Everywhere," an exclusive new episode), it's clear that the show's creators at Williams Street were intimately involved in the staging of this release. The dialogue is often hilarious, dropping relevant and obscure pop culture references in with the expected crude and objectionable comments. And the inclusion of SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt as a commentator (alongside the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future) is a major, unexpected plus.
But the comedy exists only outside the playable elements of the game - everything interactive is solely defined by tragedy. Is it meant as some elaborate in-joke on the state of the games industry? Perhaps. But if so, we struggled to find the punch line in this abomination of half-assed execution and complete disregard for modern gameplay innovations.